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The battle against prison rape

Mule Creek Prison

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation / EPA

A new DOJ study found about 1 in 10 state prisoners in the US have been sexually abused.

For at least as long as we've had HBO, our society has been aware of an intractable truth: people get raped in prison. In fact, say people like Stanford Law Professor Robert Weisberg, writing in Slate, "the United States has essentially accepted violence—and particularly brutal sexual violence—as an inevitable consequence of incarcerating criminals."

In issuing new standards for combating prison rape today, President Barack Obama indicated he thinks sexual assaults behind bars can actually be stopped, or at least reduced. 

"For too long, incidents of sexual abuse against incarcerated persons have not been taken as seriously as sexual abuse outside prison walls," the intro to the new standards reads. "In popular culture, prison rape is often the subject of jokes; in public discourse, it has been at times dismissed by some as an inevitable—or even deserved—consequence of criminality. But sexual abuse is never a laughing matter, nor is it punishment for a crime. Rather, it is a crime, and it is no more tolerable when its victims have committed crimes of their own."